California Reinvestment Coalition

Over 20 California Community Groups Oppose PacWest’s 29th Bank Merger

Published June 02, 2017 17:32


Los Angeles, CA, June 2, 2017--- More than 20 California community-based organizations notified bank regulators that they are formerly opposing PacWest’s proposed acquisition of California United Bank.

Advocates are raising a long list of concerns about the proposed merger, which would be PacWest’s 29th acquisition in the past 17 years. 

“During a previous PacWest merger, community groups raised concerns with the FDIC about the bank’s weak reinvestment track record. But instead of addressing these concerns and meeting community reinvestment needs, PacWest hired the former Regional Director of the FDIC. This is the same Director who had previously been involved in informal hearings between PacWest and community groups about the bank’s CRA activities,” explains Paulina Gonzalez, executive director of the California Reinvestment Coalition, which is spearheading the opposition campaign. “This raises serious concerns as to whether this fast growing bank sought to gain a benefit by hiring one of its former regulators. The FDIC needs to ensure that it’s protecting the interests of communities in this proposed merger, not just the interests of the Bank’s CEO and shareholders.”

“Bank regulators are required to assess whether or not a bank merger would have a public benefit,” explains Orson Aguilar, president of the Greenlining Institute. “It’s clear that this acquisition as its currently structured, including the branch closures, doesn’t pass that test.”

“Small business owners, especially here in our Central Valley’s rural communities, have not been a priority for PacWest,” comments Salam Nalia, CEO of Fresno CDFI. “We’re watching to see if the regulators will allow PacWest to continue this trend of accepting and profiting off of deposits from our communities but then refusing to reinvest those deposits in meaningful ways that stimulate our economy- like loans for small business owners.”

Concerns about the Proposed Merger:

1) Revolving door between FDIC and PacWest: Prior to his current role as Chief Risk Officer at PacWest, Stan Ivie served as the San Francisco Regional Director for the FDIC from 2007 until March 2016, where he managed a staff of about 500 employees that oversaw approximately 500 FDIC-insured institutions, including PacWest. Advocates are asking regulators to explain what policies or procedures are being employed with this merger review to avoid any conflicts of interests with this acquisition.

2) Branch Closures: As part of the acquisition, PacWest plans to close up to 9 branches, with three of those closures occurring in low to moderate income communities. Studies show that branch closures can lead to less small business lending in a neighborhood.

3) Extracting Deposits from Rural Communities: PacWest’s CRA service area includes Fresno, Kern, Kings, and Tulare Counties. While PacWest holds the 2nd most deposits for any bank in Kings County (12.6% of deposits), it originated only two small business loans in the county in 2015, and both loans were in upper income census tracts (see chart below for more data on rural deposits and loans). 

4) Peers are Outperforming PacWest in CRA: Peer banks of PacWest, including City National, Cathay, Bank of Hope, and Banc of California have more substantial (and longer) CRA plans with specific commitments focused on small business lending, referrals to nonprofit community lenders, commitments to not charge public benefit recipients ATM fees, investments in community development, supplier diversity, and workforce diversity. These banks also outperformed PacWest in their CRA activities last year, according to an analysis of CRA activity conducted by CRC. 

5) Back-tracking on earlier commitments: In its draft CRA plan, PacWest appears to retreat on several earlier commitments it made on financing affordable housing, offering safe and low cost bank accounts, and participating in California’s Small Business Loan Guarantee program.

6) Extracting deposits but not making loans: In rural California, PacWest takes (and profits) off of lots of deposits- but its small business lending track record needs improvement. 

Rural Lending Vs. Rural Deposits At Pac West (Crc Analysis)

Source: 2015 Small business lending and deposit data was compiled and analyzed by CRC.

Community leaders are calling on regulators to hold hearings on the proposed merger in Los Angeles and in Hanford, Bakersfield, or Fresno. 

  To read a copy of the letter sent by 20+ organizations, click here.

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CRC has a membership of over 300 nonprofit organizations and public agencies across the State.